2016 Summary of MLS Changes

This summary highlights changes in MLS policy adopted in 2015 that became effective January 2016. For the complete and comprehensive changes see the 2016 Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee Actions page.

Also review the shaded portions of the 2016 Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy which highlights all the changes. You may also view previous years' summaries of changes.


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Underscoring indicates additions and strikeouts indicate deletions in this summary.  Also, at the end of each policy change, the compliance classification category is noted by the following letters: 

M Mandatory*
R Recommended
O Optional
I Informational

*Adoption is necessary to ensure compliance with mandatory policies and ensure coverage under the National Association master professional liability insurance policy.


Changes to Multiple Listing P​olicy Statements

(Underscoring indicates additions and strikeouts indicate deletions):

MLS Policy Statement 7.51, Effective Date of Changes In Multiple Listing Policy, is amended as follows:

To ensure consistent, uniform understanding of an compliance with the multiple listing policies of the National Association, all changes incorporated into the National Association’s Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy become effective only upon publication of a new edition of the Handbook and that a new edition of the Handbook  be published annually, superseding and replacing all prior editions January 1 of the year following their approval by the Board of Directors of the National Association of REALTORS®.  Unless specifically provided otherwise by the NAR Board of Directors, associations and multiple listing services shall have sixty (60) days from the effective date of new or amended policies to adopt them locally. M

MLS Policy Statement 7.58, Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) Policy, is amended as follows:

Section 1, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy (Policy Statement 7.58)

The IDX policy gives MLS participants the ability to authorize limited electronic display of their listings by other participants. (Adopted 05/12)

Associations of REALTORS® and their multiple listing services must enable MLS participants to display aggregated MLS listing information by specified electronic means in accordance with this policy.  Requests for IDX feeds/downloads must be acted on by the MLS within five (5) business days from receipt, barring extenuating circumstances related to an individual’s qualification for MLS participation, and review of the participant’s and vendor’s use of the IDX information consistent with the MLS rules, in which case an estimated time of approval or denial must be issued.  Electronic display subject to this policy means displays on participants’ public websites and displays using applications for mobile devices that participants control.  For purposes of this policy “control” means participants must have the ability to add, delete, modify and update information as required by this policy.  All displays of IDX listings must also be under the actual and apparent control of the participant, and must be presented to the public as being the participant’s display.  Actual control requires that the participant has developed the display, or caused the display to be developed for the participant pursuant to an agreement giving the participant authority to determine what listings will be displayed, and how those listings will be displayed.  Apparent control requires that a reasonable consumer viewing the participant’s display will understand the display is the participant’s, and that the display is controlled by the participant.  Factors evidencing control include, but are not limited to, clear identification of the name of the brokerage firm under which the participant operates in a readily visible color and typeface, except as otherwise provided for in this policy (e.g., displays of minimal information).  All electronic display of IDX information conducted pursuant to this policy must comply with state law and regulations, and MLS rules.  Any display of IDX information must be controlled by the participant, including the ability to comply with this policy and applicable MLS rules.

To comply with this requirement MLSs must, if requested by a participant, promptly provide basic downloading of all active listings, a minimum of three (3) years sold * listing data, non-confidential pending sale listing data, and other listings authorized under applicable MLS rules and may not exclude any listings from the information which can be downloaded or displayed under IDX except those listings for which a participant has withheld consent, or listings for which the seller has prohibited Internet display. Associations and MLSs can also offer alternative display options including framing of board, MLS, or other publicly-accessible sites displaying participants’ listings (with permission of the framed site). For purposes of this policy, “downloading” means electronic transmission of data from MLS servers to participants’ servers on a persistent or transient basis, at the discretion of the MLS. The MLS’s IDX download must be refreshed to accurately reflect all updates and status changes no less frequently than every twelve (12) hours.  Data transmitted must exclude the listing or property address, respectively, of any seller who affirmatively directs that the listing or the property address not appear on the Internet or other electronic forms of display or distribution.

*Note: If “sold” information is not publicly accessible, sold listings can be removed from the MLSs’ IDX feeds/downloads.  “Publicly accessible” sold information as used in IDX policy and rules, means data that is available electronically or in hard copy to the public from city, county, state and other government records.  MLSs must provide for its participants’ IDX displays publicly accessible sold information maintained by the MLS for at least the last three (3) years.

MLSs that allow persistent downloading of the MLS database by participants for display or distribution on the Internet or by other electronic means may require that participants’ websites (1) utilize appropriate security protection, such as firewalls, provided that any security obligations imposed on participants may not be greater than those employed concurrently by the MLS, and/or (2) maintain an audit trail of consumer activity on participants’ websites and make that information available to the MLS if the MLS has reason to believe that a participant’s IDX website has caused or permitted a breach in the security of the data or a violation of MLS rules related to use by consumers.  This policy does not require associations or MLSs to establish publicly accessible sites displaying participants’ listings.

Unless state law requires prior written consent from listing brokers, listing brokers’ consent for IDX display may be presumed unless a listing broker affirmatively notifies the MLS that the listing broker refuses to permit display (either on a blanket or on a listing-by-listing basis).  If a participant refuses on a blanket basis to permit IDX display of that participant’s listings, then that participant may not display the aggregated MLS data of other participants on an IDX site.

Alternatively, MLSs may require that participants’ consent for IDX display of their listings by other participants be affirmatively established in writing.  Even where participants have given blanket authority for other participants’ IDX display of their listings, such consent may be withdrawn on a listing-by-listing basis as instructed by the seller.

Access to MLS databases, or any part of such databases, may not be provided to any person or entity not expressly authorized such access under the MLS rules.

Participants’ Internet websites and other authorized display mechanisms may also provide other features, information, or services in addition to IDX information (including Virtual Office Website [“VOW”] functions) which are not subject to this policy.

Policies Applicable to Participants’ IDX Websites and Displays

1. Participants must notify the MLS of their intention to display IDX information and give the MLS direct access for purposes of monitoring/ensuring compliance with applicable rules and policies.

2. MLS participants may not use IDX-provided listings for any purpose other than IDX display.  This does not require participants to prevent indexing of IDX listings by recognized search engines.

3. Listings or property addresses of sellers who have directed their listing brokers to withhold their listing or property address from display on the Internet (including, but not limited to, publicly accessible websites or VOWs) shall not be accessible via IDX display.

4. Participants may select the IDX listings they choose to display based only on objective criteria including, but not limited to, factors such as geography or location (“uptown”, “downtown”, etc.), list price, type of property (e.g., condominiums, cooperatives, single family detached, multi-family), cooperative compensation offered by listing brokers, type of listing (e.g., exclusive right-to-sell or exclusive agency), or the level of service provided by the listing firm.  Selection of IDX listings to be displayed must be independently made by each participant.

5. Participants must refresh all MLS downloads and displays automatically fed by those downloads not less frequently than every twelve (12) hours.

6. Except as provided elsewhere in this policy or elsewhere in an MLS’s rules and regulations, an IDX display or participant engaging in IDX display may not distribute, provide, or make any portion of the MLS database available to any person or entity.

7. When displaying listing content, a participant’s or user’s IDX display must clearly identify the name of the brokerage firm under which they operate in a readily visible color and typeface.  This policy acknowledges that certain required disclosures may not be possible in displays of minimal information (e.g., “thumbnails,” text messages, “tweets,” etc., of 200 characters or less).  Such displays are exempt from the disclosure requirements established in this policy but only when linked directly to a display that includes all required disclosures.

8. With respect to any participant’s IDX display that

a. allows third-parties to write comments or reviews about particular listings or displays a hyperlink to such comments or reviews in immediate conjunction with particular listings, or

b. displays an automated estimate of the market value of the listing (or hyperlink to such estimate) in immediate conjunction with the listing,

either or both of those features shall be disabled or discontinued with respect to the seller’s listing at the request of the seller.  The listing broker or agent shall communicate to the MLS that the seller has elected to have one or both of these features disabled or discontinued by all participants.  Except for the foregoing and subject to paragraph 9, a participant’s IDX display may communicate the participant’s professional judgment concerning any listing.  Nothing shall prevent an IDX display from notifying customers that a particular feature has been disabled at the request of the seller.

9. Participants shall maintain a means (e.g., e-mail address, telephone number) to receive comments about the accuracy of any data or information that is added by or on behalf of the participant beyond that supplied by the MLS and that relates to a specific property.  The participant shall correct or remove any false data or information relating to a specific property upon receipt of a communication from the listing broker or listing agent for that property explaining why the data or information is false.  However, the participant shall not be obligated to remove or correct any data or information that simply reflects good faith opinion, advice, or professional judgment.

10. An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs.  As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

11. Participants shall not modify or manipulate information relating to other participants’ listings.  MLS participants may augment their IDX displays of MLS data with applicable property information from other sources to appear  on the same webpage or display, clearly separated from the data supplied by the MLS.  The source(s) of the information must be clearly identified in the immediate proximity to such data.  This requirement does not restrict the format of MLS data display or display of fewer than all of the available listings or fewer authorized fields. M

Policies Applicable to Multiple Listing Services

The following guidelines are recommended but not required to conform to National Association policy. MLSs may:

1. prohibit display of expired, withdrawn, pending, or sold listings*

*Note:  If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited.

2. prohibit display of confidential information fields intended for cooperating brokers rather than consumers including compensation offered to other MLS participants, showing instructions, property security information, etc.

3. prohibit display of the type of listing agreement, e.g., exclusive right to sell, exclusive agency, etc.

4. prohibit display of seller’s(s’) and occupant’s(s’) name(s), phone number(s), and e-mail address(es)

5. require that any listing displayed identify the listing firm in a reasonably prominent location and in a readily visible color and typeface not smaller than the median used in the display of listing data

6. require that the identity of listing agents be displayed

7. require that information displayed not be modified. MLS data may be augmented with additional data not otherwise prohibited from display so long as the source of the other data is clearly identified. This requirement does not restrict the format of MLS data display or display of fewer than all of the available listings or fewer authorized data fields.

7. require that any display of other participants’ listings indicate the source of the information being displayed

8. require that other brokers’ listings obtained from other sources, e.g., from other MLSs, from non-participating brokers, etc., display the source from which each such listing was obtained

9. require participants to indicate on their websites and in any other IDX display that the information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing.

10. establish reasonable limits on the amount of data/number of listings that consumers may retrieve or download in response to an inquiry.  Such number shall be determined by the MLS, but in no instance may the limit be fewer than one hundred (100) listings or five percent (5%) of the listings available for IDX display, whichever is less.

11. limit the right to display other participants’ listings to a participant’s office(s) holding participatory rights in the same MLS.

12. require a notice on all MLS data displayed indicating that the data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the MLS.  Participants’ IDX sites and displays may also include other disclaimers necessary to protect the participant and/or the MLS from liability.

This policy acknowledges that the disclosures required under Subsections 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 (above) may not be possible in displays of minimal information (e.g., “thumbnails,” text messages, “tweets,” etc., of 200 characters or less).  Such displays are exempt from the disclosure requirements established in this policy but only when linked directly to a display that includes all required disclosures.

Additional Local Issues/Options

1. Where MLS participatory rights are available to non-member brokers or firms as a matter of law or local determination, the right to IDX display of listing information may be limited, as a matter of local option, to participants who are REALTORS®.

2. MLSs may, but are not required to, limit the right to display listing information available pursuant to IDX to MLS participants licensed as real estate brokers.

3. MLSs may, but are not required to, limit the right to display listing information pursuant to IDX to MLS participants engaged in real estate brokerage.

4. MLSs may, but are not required to, allow non-principal brokers and sales licensees affiliated with MLS participants to use information available through IDX to populate their own websites or to use in other IDX displays.
Even if use of information through IDX is provided to non-principal brokers and sales licensees affiliated with MLS participants, such use is subject to the affiliated participants’ consent and control and the requirements of state law and/or regulation, and MLS rules.

5. MLSs cannot prohibit participants from downloading and displaying or framing other brokers’ listings obtained from other sources, e.g., other MLSs, non-participating brokers, etc., but can, as a matter of local option, require that listings obtained through IDX feeds from REALTOR® Association MLSs be searched separately from listings obtained from other sources.

Note:  An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs.  As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

6. MLSs may, as a matter of local option, charge the costs of adding or enhancing their downloading capacity to participants who will download listing information.  Assessment of such costs should reasonably relate to the actual costs incurred by the MLS.

7. MLSs may prohibit advertising controlled by participants (including co-branding) on any pages displaying IDX-provided listings.

MLSs permitting advertising (including co-branding) on pages displaying IDX-provided listings may prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising (including co-branding).

For purposes of this provision, co-branding will be presumed not to be deceptive or misleading if the participant’s logo and contact information is larger than that of any third party. M

New MLS Policy Statement 7.99, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Safe Harbor, is added to the Handbook as follows:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal copyright law that enhances the penalties for copyright infringement occurring on the Internet.  The law provides exemptions or “safe harbors” from copyright infringement liability for online service providers (OSP) that satisfy certain criteria.  Courts construe the definition of “online service provider” broadly, which would likely include MLSs as well as participants and subscribers hosting an IDX display. 

One safe harbor limits the liability of an OSP that hosts a system, network or website on which Internet users may post user-generated content.  If an OSP complies with the provisions of this DMCA safe harbor, it cannot be liable for copyright infringement if a user posts infringing material on its website.  This protects an OSP from incurring significant sums in copyright infringement damages, as statutory damages are as high as $150,000 per work.  For this reason, it is highly recommended that MLSs, participants and subscribers comply with the DMCA safe harbor provisions discussed herein.

To qualify for this safe harbor, the OSP must:

(1) Designate on its website and register with the Copyright Office an agent to receive takedown requests.  The agent could be the MLS, participant, subscriber, or other individual or entity.

(2) Develop and post a DMCA-compliant website policy that addresses repeat offenders.

(3) Comply with the DMCA takedown procedure.  If a copyright owner submits a takedown notice to the OSP, which alleges infringement of its copyright at a certain location, then the OSP must promptly remove allegedly infringing material.  The alleged infringer may submit a counter-notice that the OSP must share with the copyright owner.  If the copyright owner fails to initiate a copyright lawsuit within ten (10) days, then the OSP may restore the removed material.

(4) Have no actual knowledge of any complained-of infringing activity.

(5) Not be aware of facts or circumstances from which complained-of infringing activity is apparent.

(6) Not receive a financial benefit attributable to complained-of infringing activity when the OSP is capable of controlling such activity. 

Full compliance with these DMCA safe harbor criteria will mitigate an OSP’s copyright infringement liability.  For more information see 17 U.S.C. §512.  I

Note:  The same language is added to Section 11, Ownership of MLS Compilation and Copyright section of the NAR model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types), found in the Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy.


Changes to Model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types)

(underscoring indicates additions and strikeouts indicate deletions)

Section 11, Ownership of MLS Compilation and Copyright

The language found in Policy Statement 7.99 immediately above relating to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Safe Harbor, is added to Section 11 of the NAR model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types), as an informational note.

Section 15, Arbitration of Disputes, was amended to add the following paragraph:

Awards:  The obligation to arbitrate includes the duty to either 1) pay an award to the party(ies) named in the award or 2) deposit the funds with the Professional Standards Administrator to be held in an escrow or trust account maintained for this purpose.  Failure to satisfy the award or deposit the funds with the association within ten (10) days may be considered a violation of the MLS rules and may subject the participant to disciplinary action at the sole discretion of the MLS.

Section 18.2.11 of the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) Rules was added (all types):

Participants shall not modify or manipulate information relating to other participants’ listings.  MLS participants may augment their IDX displays of MLS data with applicable property information from other sources to appear on the same webpage or display, clearly separated from the data supplied by the MLS.  The source(s) of the information must be clearly identified in the immediate proximity to such data.  This requirement does not restrict the format of MLS data display or display of fewer than all of the available listings or fewer authorized fields. M

Section 18.3.2 of the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) Rules (all types) was deleted:

Participants shall not modify or manipulate information relating to other participants’ listings. (This is not a limitation on site design but refers to changes to actual listing data.)  MLS data may be augmented with additional data not otherwise prohibited from display so long as the source of the additional data is clearly identified.  This requirement does not restrict the format of the MLS data display or display of fewer than all of the available listings or fewer authorized data fields. O

Section 18.3.12 of the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) Rules was amended (all types):

Display of expired, withdrawn, pending and sold listings* is prohibited. (Amended 11/15)  O

*Note: If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited.

Section 19.15 of the Virtual Office Website (“VOW”) Rules was amended (all types):

A participant’s VOW may not make available for search by or display to Registrants any of the following information:

a) Expired, and withdrawn, or pending (“under contract”) listings

Note: Due to the 2015 changes in IDX policy and the requirement that participants be permitted to make MLS listing information available to Registrants of VOW sites where such information may be made available via other delivery mechanisms, MLSs can no longer prohibit the display of pending (“under contract”) listings on VOW sites.

b) The compensation offered to other MLS participants

c) The type of listing agreement, ie, exclusive right-to-sell or exclusive agency

d) The seller’s and occupant’s name(s), phone number(s), or e-mail address(es)

e) Instructions or remarks intended for cooperating brokers only, such as those regarding showing or security of listed property

f) Sold information O

Note:  If sold information is publicly accessible in the jurisdiction of the MLS, Subsection 19.15f. must be omitted.  M

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